[dropcap size=small]C[/dropcap]ertain houses stop you cold in your tracks. Conspicuously located next to a bus stop, this small, 4,900sqft, bungalow in suburban Siglap has been making a surprisingly big impact. Passengers on buses passing by often hurriedly whip out their phones to snap a picture. Such is its striking appearance that even drivers on their journey are momentarily distracted.

“Once, a passing car got into a minor accident, because the people in it were busy taking a picture,” recalls the bungalow’s architect, Aamer Taher of Aamer Architects.

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All property images courtesy of photographer Sanjay Kewlani

In an age where minimalist designs are de rigueur, the expressive, layered look of this home feels like a refreshing breath of air. Like a play of yin and yang, the home’s eye-catching facade deftly blends the softness of a patterned teak screen, with the bungalow’s hard, concrete form.

“We’ve installed a beautiful sculpture here; I think we have done our job as artists.”

– Architect Aamer Taher, on the home in Siglap Plain

Not surprisingly, it’s a house that bears Taher’s signature style. An architect known for his brand of “archisculpture”, he conceives a home as a work of art tailored to the specific site, as well as the lifestyles and tastes of the owner.

AAMER Architects - Aamer Taher
Aamer Taher, the project lead.

Here, he transformed what could have been a “difficult site” into an arresting yet relaxed retirement home for a couple in their 60s. When the owner, a third-time client of Taher, brought him to the site, the architect was flabbergasted. He says: “I told him, ‘Are you crazy? Why would you buy this?’”

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Located at the junction of a minor road and a busy main street, it was too exposed. Maintaining privacy would be a challenge. Also, due to regulations to allow space for road-widening, only half of the site’s land could be used for construction. The owner’s reply to Taher’s shock was simple. “He said, ‘Because I know you can give me a good house,’” recalls the architect.

“Finding a good solution to a difficult site is always satisfying,” says Taher. The idea for the bungalow’s teak screen came from a significant source: the multi-racial background of the owners.

The male owner is North Indian Muslim; his wife, Chinese. Taher’s team drew from the Islamic concept of “veils” to devise an ingenious solution. A patterned screen would off er privacy and function as a sound-blocker, while allowing in light and dwellers to have a view. In a nod to the resident’s Chinese background, an abstract Oriental pattern was embedded into the screens, creating an alluring visual contrast to the hard concrete.

“When you reference cultural features, the trick is not to be too obvious, so it appears contemporary,” says Taher. “It should offer a sense of Asian culture, but remain ambiguous.”

Since moving in, the owners have been relishing living in a home meticulously tailored to their lifestyles and culture. The grand double volume living room is the open heart of the home. The lady owner, whom Taher describes as “a fantastic cook”, often whips up a feast in the ground level kitchen, while her guests move between the living room and the outdoor decks and gardens. The male owner’s favourite spot is a long, timber bench outside the living room. An avid jogger and swimmer, he also enjoys working out in his private lap pool.

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These deliberate plays between openness and privacy also hold a deeper meaning. As Islamic tradition sometimes have women and men holding separate gatherings, the team installed sliding partitions that allow the owners to transform the living room into private spaces.

Taher’s face lights up as he talks about the bathroom, which he likens to a “dramatic stage setting” out of a Star Wars movie. “It’s not your ordinary, Balinese bathroom,” he says. “There are odd-shaped windows cut into the concrete walls, which are just enough to allow for enjoying the space and light, without feeling like your neighbours can peer in.”

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It is this flair for sculpting unique solutions that has established Taher’s reputation as an artistic architect. “I challenge trends,” he says. “It’s about being able to highlight something different, so that you gain a different perspective.” Here, in Siglap Plain, he has designed a home that delights both the owners and the public. He says: “Passers-by in the area see this artistic installation within suburban Singapore. I think we’ve done our job as artists.”

All property images courtesy of photographer Sanjay Kewlani